Solidifying the Manuscript

By Joe Vriend of Zondervan


Scribe’s blog/e-mail blast is intended to help provide information and best practices for publishers. We have asked a number of talented, thoughtful people in the industry to share their ideas on topics related to the editorial and production process. This article, from Joe Vriend at Zondervan, is the first response we received. If you feel you have something to contribute, please contact us.

There is no question that the publishing industry is changing. From author to reader, acquisition to distribution, everything is changing. The transition to publishing digital content requires a review of nearly every step of the publishing process.

The reading experience has changed dramatically and will continue to change as new reading devices are developed and improved. The technology for bringing the content to the reader continues to become more sophisticated, which allows the individual reader to make more choices regarding how the content is presented and viewed.

Type fonts and sizes are irrelevant. Where text and features are placed on a “page” is often not critical as long as there is some kind of link to, or indication of, additional content. With the new reading devices, consumers can decide what type size is most comfortable for them. The device quality and technology and the reader determine where and how images, footnotes, and ancillary materials are placed and used.

With all this change and new capabilities (and/or limitations, depending on how one looks at it and on the quality of the reading device), do editors and authors really need to see the text on a printed page in order to edit and proof the content? Shouldn’t authors, editors, and proofers be more concerned about the quality, structure, and correctness of the content than about how it looks on the page?

Manuscripts come into a publishing house in various formats and from authors with varying degrees of writing skill. Once a manuscript is accepted for publication, it often goes through extensive stages of editing, structure coding, proofing, author review, more editing, and final proofing before it is handed over to production for typesetting. This can be a long and arduous process. Once the content is handed off to typesetters, the text is placed in a page format according to the design, and there is careful attention to the placement of every ancillary item that makes up the content. The typesetters make sure that every element from type to illustration looks good and reads well and that all the parts and pieces of the content are in place.

One of the most frustrating, inefficient, and costly aspects of preproduction publishing is to get the first pass of pages, or proofs, back from an editor only to find that the content has been so extensively edited and altered that it would actually be easier to enter all the changes into the original text document and start the design work all over again. Why weren’t all these changes made in the original editing and proofing steps? Why, after the added value of placing the text on the page and including all the design elements, do so many editors and authors see the need to make changes? At this point in the process, extensive changes can cause delays and extra costs. Many deadlines are missed and many extra dollars are spent making changes in the latter stages of book production.

All this is to say that making sure the manuscript is final, carefully edited, and proofed before it moves into the production stage of typesetting is critically important to any publishing process. It is even more important with titles going to digital publication first or into simultaneous digital and print publication. In the future, having a final edited and corrected manuscript, and all the details and plans for the possible components of the product, is absolutely critical for accurate, efficient, and cost-saving production.